Week 5 college football picks: Cincinnati at Notre Dame, ASU at UCLA and more

Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder carries the ball against Miami of Ohio Sept. 4
Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder carries the ball against Miami of Ohio Sept. 4.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

Each week, the Times’ national college sports reporter J. Brady McCollough will pick the week’s eight best games — that have a combination of big-brand intrigue and a spread within a touchdown — plus the USC and UCLA games. Through four weeks, McCollough is 23-17 and surging after an 8-2 record last week.


No. 5 Iowa at Maryland (Friday)

The Terrapins are quietly 4-0 and hold a quality win over West Virginia. Iowa’s domination of Indiana and a win over then-top-10 Iowa State have the Hawkeyes thinking big in the top five. Is Iowa really that good, though? The Terrapins have the quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, and the receivers, Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus Jr., to spread out Iowa. But the Hawkeyes will depend on their brute strength, opportunistic defense and offensive execution to escape College Park. Iowa 28, Maryland 24


Texas at Texas Christian

Texas running back Xavier Worthy runs for a touchdown against Texas Tech.
Texas running back Xavier Worthy runs for a touchdown against Texas Tech during the second half on Saturday in Austin, Texas.
(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)


The Longhorns’ loss at Arkansas doesn’t look so bad now that the Hogs backed it up with a win over Texas A&M last week. In Steve Sarkisian’s Big 12 debut, Texas put up 70 points on Texas Tech. Sarkisian made the switch to Casey Thompson at quarterback over Hudson Card, which seems to be working out. Since joining the Big 12, TCU holds a remarkable 7-2 record against Texas. If Sark really wants to ingratiate himself with the faithful in Austin, a win over the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth would be a great start. Texas 34, TCU 28


No. 14 Michigan at Wisconsin

The way Michigan finished its last game against Rutgers — by nearly coughing up a 20-3 halftime lead and starting the second half with three three-and-outs — could have been a bad omen for how it will fare in Madison. Or was it a perfectly-timed learning opportunity? This Wisconsin team is not very good, but the one thing the Badgers do well is stop the run. Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara has not had to prove that he can pass the Wolverines to victory. Given Jim Harbaugh’s track record on the road at Michigan, the smart bet is on Wisconsin. Wisconsin 27, Michigan 20


USC at Colorado

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis runs off the field.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) runs off the field after a touchdown by running back Keaontay Ingram against Oregon State at the Coliseum on Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The last time the Trojans hit the road to take on a struggling opponent, they started slowly before blowing out Washington State 45-14. Of course, they had freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart as a spark. Back in the Coliseum with Kedon Slovis, USC had another uninspired performance. Whether it’s Slovis or Dart, the Trojans should benefit once again from getting away from the negativity in L.A. and just playing football against an inferior team. USC 31, Colorado 20


No. 7 Cincinnati at No. 9 Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have had a wild start to the season, cashing in their trademark luck to escape Florida State and Toledo and then beating two Big Ten opponents. They will need to play their best game of the season to beat Cincinnati, which has a chance Saturday to make a huge statement that it belongs in the playoff conversation. The Bearcats will get a steady performance from dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder to keep the game tight and settle into South Bend. But Notre Dame under Brian Kelly just has a way of winning these toss-up games. Notre Dame 28, Cincinnati 27


No. 3 Oregon at Stanford

Oregon wide receiver Johnny Johnson III during the second quarter against Arizona.
Oregon wide receiver Johnny Johnson III during the second quarter against Arizona on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
(Andy Nelson / Associated Press)

Each week, we keep waiting for the Pac-12 to begin cannibalizing its College Football Playoff contenders. With Oregon playing in Palo Alto against longtime nemesis David Shaw, is this the week? Stanford beat up USC and took UCLA deep into the fourth quarter last week before succumbing. The Cardinal are battle tested against four Power Five opponents (yes, technically, Vanderbilt counts). Oregon has a lot more speed than Stanford and will crack a couple of big plays to stay unbeaten. Oregon 33, Stanford 24


No. 10 Florida at Kentucky

The Gators will be playing their first game outside the state of Florida this season, and while they owned the Wildcats for 31 straight years, Kentucky’s 2019 victory showed Florida can no longer chalk up a win in Lexington. Florida took Alabama to the wire in week three when Kentucky was struggling to beat Chattanooga. The Wildcats are 4-0 and on an upward trajectory, but Florida will limit mistakes and run the ball well enough to win a defensive struggle. Florida 23, Kentucky 17

Where do college football fans gather to watch games in Southern California? From Alabama to Michigan and Clemson to USC, use our guide to find your game-day spot.

Sept. 2, 2021


No. 21 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State

After beating Iowa State last week in Waco, Baylor is starting to feel as if it has something special brewing under second-year coach Dave Aranda. But Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s program has a firm foundation and is used to playing in this type of game — heck, the Cowboys just won at Boise State and at home against a ranked Kansas State team. Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders appears to have evolved into a guy on whom Gundy can depend. Oklahoma State 38, Baylor 28


No. 22 Auburn at Louisiana State

Auburn might have been looking ahead to this one when it nearly lost at home last week to Georgia State. First-year head coach Bryan Harsin better hope that’s what it was. For now, Bo Nix is out at quarterback and T.J. Finley is in. Finley just so happened to start his career at LSU, so this will be personal for him. LSU is hard to figure out, but the Tigers appeared to stabilize a bit in their win last week at Mississippi State. The pressure will be on Ed Orgeron in a night game at Death Valley, a feeling he knows all too well. LSU 31, Auburn 24


Arizona State at No. 20 UCLA

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet scores a touchdown past Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet scores a touchdown past Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly (17) during the first half on Saturday in Palo Alto.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

Can the Bruins handle success this time? They backed up their emphatic win over LSU with a heartbreaking loss to Fresno State at the Rose Bowl. The trick for good teams is not to get too high or too low, so if UCLA can stay even-keeled after its latest win over Stanford, it should be able to beat Arizona State. Dorian Thompson-Robinson appears to be healthy enough to play, and the Bruins will hope they can depend on Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown to make it easier on him. UCLA 35, Arizona State 28